|One bad innings dooms Saltillo|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 6, 2006 - MOUNT PLEASANT - The Saltillo Lions played 6 2/3 innings of excellent baseball Friday night. Oh, to have back that 1/3 of an inning, though.
The Lions, facing Rivercrest in a showdown for the final playoff spot in District 15-A, allowed seven unearned runs with two outs in the fourth inning to drop a 9-3 decision.
Rivercrest earned the runner-up spot in the district, behind champion North Hopkins, and was scheduled to face Union Hill at 1 p.m. today in Mount Pleasant to start a best-of-three series.
The Rebels scored one earned run in the fourth off Saltillo hard-luck starter Travis Thompson, then used three base hits and four errors to take an 8-1 lead.
What made the inning so disappointing for Saltillo head coach Joe Thomas was that the Lions were exceptional defensively leading up to the fourth.
"It was one inning - four errors in one inning," Thomas said. "We made three innings of great plays, then that one inning, it just went crazy on us. We couldn't find our composure. With two outs, we made four errors before we got out of the inning.
"It makes it tough. The kids played well up to this point, then that one bad inning cost them."
In the first inning, Lion catcher David Frew threw out Rivercrest's speedy lead off man, then in the second frame center fielder Derek McClure made a diving catch. Shortstop Miles Payne had back-to-back excellent plays in the third inning when he leaped high to snag a line drive, then went deep in the hole between third to field a grounder and get a force out at second base.
Even in the fourth, the inning started well defensively when with one out, third baseman Nolan Garmon and Frew caught Rivercrest's Destry Nolen in a well-executed run down for the second out.
Then, things fell apart for the Lions. With two outs and one on, Thompson faced six more batters before freshman Chase Carr came on to finish out the game.
Thompson allowed just one earned run on seven hits while fanning three and walking one. Carr threw 2 1/3 innings, giving up no hits and striking out five.
"Travis never really was hit hard until that one inning after all those errors and he wore down," Thomas said. "That's pretty typical of any pitcher who has to throw too many pitches in one inning. Then, we went to the freshman, and I think he did a good job.
"Both pitchers did what we asked them to do."
Saltillo took a 1-0 lead in the first when Payne walked and went to third on Frew's grounder. Garmon then drove him in with a bouncer to second.
The Lions also scored the final runs of the game. In the sixth, Frew reached on a fielder's choice and came all the around from first on Trey Thompson's double to deep left field.
In the seventh, the Lions added the final run and left the bases loaded. With one out, Steven Mobley reached on an error, then Christian Emmons singled him to second. Mobley scored on Carr's single to right, but Rivercrest pitcher Laramie Lum, who went the distance on the mound, got the final two outs of the game.
Lum struck out five and walked two while giving up five hits.
The Rebels made the playoffs for the first time since 1974, while Thomas was hoping the Lions would be the first Saltillo team to make the postseason in 22 years.
"I was hoping this bunch would do it," he said. "Defensively, we played most of our games this season like we did those first three innings."